Friday, 1 April 2016

The Foundations for Farming project

I know almost nothing about farming, yet it is one of the most common ways of earning a living here in Zambia. The majority of the guardians supported by Arise grow maize; some to sell but mostly just to feed their families. Last year when we visited the guardians in the community, many of their stories were the same – their maize was not growing well and they didn’t expect a good harvest or much food for their families.

Maize growing near to where we live

There were some good reasons for this. The rains were late or didn’t come at all. The government were late in providing fertiliser for those who bought into the scheme, or the farmers couldn’t afford fertiliser at all. However, in some places including Baluba Farm across the road from the compound we live in here in Kaniki, maize did seem to grow well.

Most of the maize grown is made into mealie meal, a staple food here in Zambia

Traditional Zambian farming methods include slash and burn which involves clearing plots of land, allowing the debris to dry and later burn. It takes less manpower to clear the field but is also environmentally damaging. These methods are so ingrained in the culture that people are very reluctant to change and often revert to these more familiar methods even when they are taught different ones.

Foundations for Farming (also known as Farming God’s Way) is an initiative run by The Dawn Community Care Trust, a charity based in Ndola. The aim of Foundations for Farming is to transform individuals and communities through more productive use of land. The methods include digging small basins rather than ploughing the soil, using mulch covers instead of burning the land and rotating crops to promote nutrient rich soil. These methods have been very successful in seeing crop yields increase.

Measuring the basins
Small basins

Foundations for Farming teaches people how to apply biblical principles – planting on time, doing things to a high standard without wasting resources and being faithful with what God has given them, no matter how small that amount may be. I visited The Dawn Community Care Trust to learn from them, and of course ask lots of questions given my lack of farming knowledge! We arranged for one of their trainers to come to Kaniki one morning a week to teach some of the guardians supported by Arise. The Trust advised us to start small, use a small plot of land and choose just a few guardians to participate in the project. It was important that the size of the plot was manageable in order to see good results.

The training in action

We thought carefully about which guardians to invite to take part, and asked three ladies who seem motivated to get things done and who also seem to have influence with other guardians in the community. The majority of our guardians are female and it is often women who work on the fields here. All three of the ladies we invited were keen to participate and turned up keen to learn at the first training session the next morning.



Adding fertiliser
I was hoping to get involved with the actual farming so that I could learn a bit more about the project. This didn’t end up happening as on the first morning of training I had to cover teaching a class at school. This actually worked out well as it meant the trainer could teach in Bemba, the local language, which made it easier for the guardians to understand. We have also involved our Zambian volunteer who works with Arise and the two manual workers at school in the project. They and the three guardians who we train will be the best people to teach other guardians in the future. Our hope is that the project will continue to grow and enable many more local people to learn new skills and better support their families.

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